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Peyton Manning to play less in Broncos-Niners game?

In his first game since the 2010 season, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning played a dozen snaps against the Chicago Bears before playing the entire first half -- 33 plays -- against the Seattle Seahawks last Saturday night.

The third preseason game is when teams usually play their starters into the third quarter, but according to Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post, Manning hinted that he could play less than originally planned against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

While less Manning might cause groans from FOX, which will broadcast the game nationally, there's little reason for head coach John Fox to prolong Manning's exposure to the 49ers' pass rush. A series or two, or possibly a quarter of action, should be enough Sunday, and that could be the last time we see Manning before the Broncos' season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Broncos' final preseason game is against the Arizona Cardinals, the other NFC West team that unsuccessfully attempted to woo Manning in March.

The only benefit to having Manning play with the rest of the first-team offense for an extended period of time against the 49ers, or playing him at all against the Cardinals, is the Broncos' regular-season schedule.

Two of the first three opponents (Steelers, Houston Texans) run the 3-4 defense that the 49ers and Cardinals do. Since Manning is the furthest thing from a rookie quarterback, that's not much of a reason to send him out there.

Follow Brian McIntyre on Twitter _@brianmcintyre_.

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